I don’t know who invented the phrase “to sleep like a baby”, but it definitely wasn’t a person with an actual baby. So to new mums: you are NOT alone.
Did you know that, according to studies, the term ‘sleeping through’ is just five hours in a row? Regular night waking is simply a biological survival instinct for newborns. This is because babies have shorter sleep cycles, smaller tummies and spend more time in active sleep than adults do. Night waking is also protective against SIDS.
So if the idea of five whole hours of uninterrupted sleep sounds amazing to you, then I have created a list of baby sleep tips to help your baby (and you!) get a good night’s sleep. Every baby is different, and different methods work for each personality. There is no one rule for all.
Baby Sleep Tip No.1
Have a bedtime ritual
Babies absolutely love routine. A bedtime ritual can help to calm your baby down and prepare them for sleep. Whether it is bath time, massage, singing a song or a simple one like changing into pyjamas and reading a book, this will help baby to understand what is coming next. It’s really important to be consistent with baby’s routine and ensure anyone who might be putting them to sleep knows the routine and doesn’t differ from it.
Baby Sleep Tip No.2
A year after my son was born we were still only getting a few hours of sleep a night. We resorted to using a sleep doctor to help us with his sleep issues. This was a fantastic one of her tips that we were just so over tired we didn’t think about before she said it. An overtired baby can be a lot harder to settle so it’s vital to catch their sleep signals early. Infants communicate they are tired through certain behaviours. Losing interest in the things around them, eye rubbing, going quiet or starting to fuss are common ones. Try getting the baby to nap when you notice these tiredness cues.
Baby Sleep Tip No.3
The importance of a dark and quiet room
This is an obvious one but so many times parents miss it. Babies need a very dark room in order to release the sleep hormone. Trying to get them to go to sleep when it’s bright out is creating an unnecessary challenge for you and for them. It’s really important to have a quiet room too so they are not disturbed if they are light sleepers.
Baby Sleep Tip No.4
Try not to feed to sleep
It is a crucial mistake that so many parents (like myself!) have made. We are so worried that maybe baby is waking because they are hungry but more often than not we are making things worse for our babies by putting them down to sleep with a full tummy. As adults we don’t like to lie down straight away after having a huge meal and so the same applies to babies and children.
Baby Sleep Tip No.5
Reduce night time bottles or feeds
It’s instinct when a baby wakes to give them a feed or a bottle to get them back to sleep but there comes a time when they should be able to go through the night without. Their bodies become so accustomed to waking at the same time that it’s very hard for them to break this cycle. Our sleep doctor gave us a good tip to reduce it down gradually. Over the space of three nights to a week depending on how much feed they are taking during the night keep reducing down the size of the feed. There may be one or two difficult nights at the end of the process where you will have to settle them using your other settling techniques but after that it will be worth all the pain when you get those five plus luscious hours of sleep!
Baby Sleep Tip No.6
Newborns are used to constant sounds (in the womb), like your beating heart and noisy stomach, so silence may be very unsettling for them. Some babies sleep easier if you turn on a white noise machine. White noise is also great for cancelling out noises…like a shouting toddler outside!
Baby Sleep Tip No.7
Invest in a good mattress
A friend once gave me some advice to buy the best mattress I could reasonably afford for my sons. She was so right. The move from our not so comfy bassinet to their lovely cot with a comfy mattress made significant improvements to their sleep. Just as an adult sleeps better when they’re comfortable it’s important to remember that so too do children. It was a very worthwhile investment!
Time flies fasts with little ones. Before you know it, they will eventually sleep better. Those sleepless nights only seem like they'll last forever. Remember that all kids are totally different so don’t be disheartened if your friends babies are sleeping through the night long before yours. Your time will come!